This post about TV and stress originally from Alive…
The sights and sounds on our TV screens are vivid: the charred remains of a plane crash and the victims’ sobbing families; the rubble left by a blazing fire and sound bites from shaken survivors. It’s not surprising that such tragedies traumatize those who live through them. But a study at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., suggests that even watching TV coverage of such events or reading about them in the paper can trigger mild symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, a syndrome that frequently strikes survivors of tragedy.
To test this theory, researchers chose the O.J. Simpson case, on the assumption that most people would be familiar with it. Within a week of Simpson’s arrest, they surveyed nearly 200 college students about their reaction to it. Among the questions: Have you been bothered by thoughts of these events? Have you been jumpier than usual? Have you avoided things that remind you of these events?
Though the students weren’t experiencing full-blown post-traumatic stress, many were quite upset by coverage of the murders. About a third re- ported experiencing uncontrollable thoughts or images of the murders or feeling depressed by them. Those who had seen or read more reported more turmoil. “These traumatic events become part of our lives in a way that wasn’t possible a century ago,” says study coauthor and psychologist Lennis Echterling. “We need to recognize how people are affected by them.”
If you find yourself unduly anxious or depressed after watching the nightly news, “share your concerns with someone sympathetic,” suggests Dr. Echterling. “It may also help to take positive action—say, by sending a financial contribution to earthquake victims or volunteering for a domestic abuse hot line.” —NANCY WARTIK
Stress and Healing
Under a lot of stress? If so, take good care of any cuts or abrasions. Stress not only suppresses the immune system’s ability to fight infection, but also seems to slow the healing of wounds.
Researchers at Ohio State University in Columbus made pencil eraser–sized wounds on the inner forearms of 26 healthy women aged 47 to 81. Half of them were caring for a mother or husband afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease. Healing took nine days longer on average among those women. The difference was most notable during the initial wound-closing stage, when the risk of infection is greatest.
The caregivers’ blood cells also produced less of a chemical (interleukin1 beta) that helps fight infection and repair damaged tissue. “Stress,” says molecular immunologist Phillip Marucha, “seems to inhibit the chemical’s production.”
Until scientists learn more about how stress affects wound healing, your best bet is to try to remain calm when you’re under the gun. Some good strategies: Exercise regularly; get enough sleep, eat right, avoid alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine, and make time for stress-reducing activities such as tai chi, yoga or meditation.